Volleyball Makes Final Four
The UC Irvine men’s volleyball team will make its second straight appearance to the NCAA Championship after winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Title against top-ranked Pepperdine 3-2 on Saturday, April 28.
The four-team tournament will take place from May 3 to 5 at Ohio State University.
UCI is the No. 2 seed and will match up with familiar foe Penn State in the first semifinal bracket, while Pepperdine will take on Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne in the other semifinals match.
The UCI-Penn State semifinal will be rematch of last season’s Final Four, where the Nittany Lions defeated the Anteaters in a five-set thriller, knocking them out of the playoffs.
‘There is a little bit of history between us and they are going to be up to the challenge,’ said UCI Head Coach John Speraw. ‘It’s a different year and there are a different team and so are we. It is the Final Four so it’s not going to be an easy match.’
UCI played Penn State earlier this season on March 14 at home and defeated the Nittany Lions 3-1.
But despite its earlier victory, Speraw will not take his team’s opponents lightly.
‘We know that they are a really good team,’ Speraw said. ‘We had to play an exceptional match against them to win.’
If UCI is able to advance to the NCAA Finals, they will most likely face the Pepperdine Waves for the National Title.
Pepperdine is the No. 1 seed in the tournament after finishing the season with a 26-2 overall record and are favorites to capture the title for the first time since 2005.
The teams have played three times already this season with the Waves winning the first two games, but the Anteaters won the most recent meeting between the teams on Saturday, April 28 in the MPSF Finals.
‘We got seniors who have wanted this for the whole year, so going back to the Final Four is amazing,’ said junior middle blocker Aaron Harrell.
The Anteaters have won five games in a row and record now stands at 27-6 overall.
The team has played its best volleyball towards the end of the season, winning its last five games, many in dramatic come-from-behind victories. ‘It doesn’t matter what you do at the beginning of the season, just whose playing at their best in the end,’ said senior outside hitter Jayson Jablonsky.
UCI should be familiar with the surroundings at Ohio State University as they played two exhibitions games in Columbus in mid December.
‘There are not many times in life that you get a chance to make the wrong things right,’ said senior opposite Matt Webber, referring to UCI’s second attempt at a National Championship. ‘This is definitely one those second chances.